| Ferdinand is said to have ‘forgotten’ to report for the drugs test
St Albans (England): England defender Rio Ferdinand was on Tuesday dropped for their decisive Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey after missing a drugs test, provoking fierce condemnation from his club and players’ union.
Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson told a news conference that he had no option but to follow a directive from Football Association (FA) bosses after Ferdinand, 24, failed to attend the routine test last month.
The action, which the FA said in no way pre-empted a hearing into the case next Monday, has been criticised in separate statements from English champions Manchester United and the players’ union, the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA).
The PFA said it was a “disgrace” effectively to act before Ferdinand’s case had been heard and later United issued a statement saying it was “deeply troubled” by the FA’s handling of the issue.
To add to Eriksson’s problems, his leading striker Michael Owen is still struggling with a shin injury picked up during Liverpool’s 2-1 Premier League defeat by Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday.
Owen was named in the squad but is rated at only 50-50 to play in Istanbul on Saturday, according to the coach who has called up Aston Villa’s Darius Vassell as stand-by.
England need a draw to qualify automatically for next year’s championship in Portugal and send Turkey, who finished third in last year’s World Cup, into next month’s playoffs.
Ferdinand failed to attend a drugs test at his club Manchester United last month, saying that he simply ‘forgot’ about it because of a house move.
He passed one held 36 hours later but has been asked to attend a personal interview next Monday to explain his absence on the original test date.
Ferdinand, however, denied ever using drugs.
“I am absolutely devastated by this situation and I want to take this opportunity to categorically state that I have never used drugs or condoned the use of drugs in sport or in society,” Ferdinand said in a statement to the United website.
“I have been routinely tested like all players throughout my career and the results have always been the same: negative, like the most recent test.”
“Given the seriousness with which the FA view breaches of its doping control regulations... the FA has concluded that it is inappropriate for Rio Ferdinand to be available for selection for England,” FA director of marketing and communications Paul Barber told a news conference on Tuesday from a statement.
He added that it was not in any way prejudging the outcome of the hearing on Monday. Barber refused to take questions from the media.
The Ferdinand disclosure comes a week after a number of English Premier League stars were accused of an alleged gang rape of a 17-year-old schoolgirl in an exclusive London hotel.
Ferdinand has a reputation as a party animal and was banned from driving for a year after celebrating his first England call-up as an 18-year-old and then attempting to drive home.
Eriksson added in a later conference: said: “I don’t know any more than I read in the newspapers (about Ferdinand). I shouldn’t comment before I know what has happened”
Turning to Owen, Eriksson added that he had not decided who he would start up front. “He wants to play and we want to get him fit... but let’s keep it at 50-50 that he plays,” he said.
Captain David Beckham, who shrugged off a foot injury to play for Real Madrid in Sunday’s 2-1 La Liga win over Espanyol, was also included in Eriksson’s squad.
England have not taken up their ticket allocation for the match and are urging fans not to travel to Istanbul amid fears of crowd trouble that could lead to them being kicked out of the tournament.
Collina to officiate
Pierluigi Collina will referee the crucial qualifier in place of Danish official Kim Milton Nielsen, who has pulled out with a foot injury.
Collina took charge of England’s 5-1 win in a World Cup qualifier against Germany in Munich last year and the triumph against Argentina in Sapporo in the 2002 World Cup. Nielsen, who sent off Beckham for a retaliatory kick at Diego Simeone in the 1998 World Cup match against Argentina, injured his thigh in a Danish league match on Sunday.
THE ENGLAND SQUAD
Goalkeepers: David James (West Ham), Paul Robinson (Leeds United), Ian Walker (Leicester City).
Defenders: Phil Neville (Manchester United), Gary Neville (Manchester United), Ashley Cole (Arsenal), Wayne Bridge (Chelsea), Danny Mills (Middlesbrough), Sol Campbell (Arsenal), John Terry (Chelsea), Matthew Upson (Birmingham City). Midfielders: David Beckham (Real Madrid, Spain, captain), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Owen Hargreaves (Bayern Munich, Germany), Nicky Butt (Manchester United), Kieron Dyer (Newcastle United), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Paul Scholes (Manchester United). Strikers: Michael Owen (Liverpool), Emile Heskey (Liverpool), James Beattie (Southampton), Wayne Rooney (Everton).